Operation Christmas Child boxes topple past marks

Jan. 20, 2014 @ 08:03 PM

Christmas care packages going overseas from Vance, Warren and Franklin counties through Operation Christmas Child numbered 4,268.

JoAnn Wilder, the relay center coordinator for the three counties, said some of them are on the way to Quito, Ecuador, a South American location between Colombia and Peru.

Wilder said adding to the thrill of the 20-year campaign of packing and stacking boxes is the new element of tracking added in recent years.

The national sending facility scans bar-coded stickers purchased by givers online, and as shipments are prepared for their slow journey beyond the shores of America, an email notifies the giver.

“We are tracking some of ours from North Henderson Baptist Church,” Wilder said. “The younger people are more excited about the tracking, watching for them by computer.”

Carolyn Patterson is an active participant locally who has also worked with the campaign at the national shipping facility.

“They are not all shipped at Christmas,” Patterson said. “I don’t know that many will have heard yet where their boxes are going.”

According to Patterson, the boxes are given a look-through for any broken things or inappropriate items such as chocolate that can melt where hot. Nothing usable is thrown away, though.

“Perfectly good things that can’t make it overseas are given to local charities,” Patterson said. “They’re not going to waste anything.”

Wilder said the number of boxes for 2013 stands as the most reported since 2008. The high mark was reached because of New Life Baptist Church, the 118-member congregation on Vicksboro Road that packed up 1,111 gift boxes as a memorial tribute to church and family member Betty Elliott, a Christmas Child supporter who died earlier last year.

“That was a very successful campaign, and a great tribute,” Wilder said. “I am hoping they will want to do that again next year, but that’s a lot for a little church.”

Patterson said the reward for givers reaches beyond mere things, as the giving of boxes in a community overseas is a way for the true message of Christmas to spread.

“It opens doors for people to learn about the Lord,” she said. “That is the whole concept of the Christmas Child program.”

According to Wilder, the North Henderson relay center, active since 2004, has sent 33,429 gift boxes. Past year totals ran 3,169 in 2008; 3,898 in 2009; 4,200 in 2010; 3,835 in 2011 and the number sent in 2012 was 3,337.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child nationally collected more than 100 million gift boxes for children overseas, according to Wilder. There were 9 million in 2013.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.